Date: 17th November 2023
Please “Sign on for Scotland”
Big topics in Scottish football are like the 23 buses in Edinburgh. You wait ages and then they come 3 at a time.
23. World Cup
23. “Signing on for Scotland”.
The last two weeks Stings have been totally focussed on pyro and the ultras and how fan actions are impacting negatively on non-pyro SFSA members.
What is currently happening with the fire-sticks is random, maverick, sometimes semi-organised, but always dangerous.
There needs to be a very adult but open discussion between stakeholders including the ‘Pyro Protagonists’ and also those who just want to watch the football.
And a well thought through plan of action that has had fan input and sign up.
Before doing anything, maybe we all need to ask ourselves a key question.
Are clubs in Scotland responsible for the behaviour of their own fans?
A quite separate but also interlinked discussion is working out how Football in Scotland can benefit from the Europe- driven energy that has led to the copycat rise of the ‘ultra’ fan groups at our clubs.
And yes sometimes pyro and ultras start as separate issues but often also become hopelessly interlinked.
My personal starting point is you can judge any society by how it treats its most vulnerable members and right now there is too little protection for fans scared of pyro on the terraces and for non-ultra fans.
There is also a hint of the start of a ‘mob rule’ that needs addressed.
For individual fans to hand-hold and wave illegal items burning at 2300 degrees in crowded and sometimes combustible structures really is unacceptable in the context of crowded stadia.
We have been told via the media that the SFA/SPFL will hold their ‘secret summit’, but strangely fans will not be invited, and the discussion points will not be put into the public domain, even though the Scottish Government will be there.
That isn’t acceptable, guys.
And last week I even heard one respected broadcaster saying how if there were no pyros at his recent matches and no ultras noise that our football would be too boring.
I don’t agree and shouted as much.
Football has existed across Scotland at all levels without pyros, I wonder how it ever managed?
And one wee thought to share from the same programme.
Just think how many cigarettes were smoked and stamped out by fans at The Valley Parade in Bradford before the fatal one in May, 1985.
56 Deaths and 265 injuries from a butt that burns at a lower temperature than any pyro.
We still have wooden stands in Scotland.
The second big topic this week is the Fifa stitch-up to pre-award/gift/ the Saudis the World Cup for 2034.
I think Fifa’s Infantino is a consummate, deeply Machiavellian and probably also by now, very rich politician.
Scotland are a small and insignificant player at Fifa, but I guess we’re not even close to being part of the ruling clique.
I would always support the good guys in football, and I maybe naively include Scotland in that diminishing group.
Why has there never been any discussion about breaking away from the money-led inherent corruption that dominates?
It’s no “Surprise, Surprise”, but I have never heard even the merest hint of pushback or even insight from whoever is our SFA delegate.
Asking why might be a waste of breath.
In the meantime I look forward to Sunday night.
It will be a cracking game and after a point in Georgia, in Steve we all trust.
Norway are lucky to have their big striker on the field, and off the field, Lise Klaveness who is head of their FA.
She protects their corner like a cage fighter, keeps Norwegian fans in the picture and she just smells a whole lot cleaner.
I wonder if she will have any deep-seated discussions about a better future with our own SFA blazered Grand Fromages?
Sign On For Scotland
This is a genuine offer.
I want you to sign on for Scotland at https://www.change.org/p/scotland-games-free-on-tv/c
It’s the biggest news this week.
It needs you and everyone you know to make it happen politically.
And it won’t happen overnight.
Basically all of us fans have united and are fighting back against the current Uefa Pay Per View policy sanctioned by the SFA on Scottish Men’s International matches (and to protect the Women’s matches in the future).
Over the Years ‘Pay Per View for the National Team’ Has Been Normalised, – partly because we all knew no better
But the Viaplay deal was just a subscription too far and caused a massive negative reaction as well as the purchase of a huge amount of Amazon Fire Sticks.
We noticed it starting with fan ‘grumbles almost immediately after Uefa announced that Scotland games had been ‘bundled’ into a group including Northern Ireland and Wales, and maybe more.
They, Uefa, had sold us to a Scandi group who didn’t even have any Scottish employees.
We now know they the Scandis then took over Viasomebody, an Irish based company who used to be Setanta, and had been responsible for serious carnage in our game a few years back but had sneaked back in.
The SFA said loudly at the time of the new deal with Viaplay, “It’s not our fault, – It Was Uefa that done it”, and hid behind the ‘Bundling’ and Uefa Central.
They could not however disguise a real factual niggle that fans in England and Wales are not behind similar pay walls.
Nor that Scots fans get English and Welsh games free on C4, and soon to be ITV for England and S4C for Wales but not our own.
That really irked many of our members.
We wanted a Stooshie but just got rehearsed SFA spin and shrugged shoulders.
And that could have been that , except it wasn’t.
The policy and the outcome was just plain wrong and despite what they think, we are not mug punters, well not all the time.
Here are some facts that are shocking.
– There are circa 5,400,000 inhabitants in Scotland and circa 1,000,000 of them are classified as below the poverty line.
– A quarter of them are kids.
– And 10,000 plus kids in Scotland live in temporary accommodation.
They are all excluded by the Uefa/SFA agreed ‘highest bidder’ policy.
And moving on from it needs to be ‘political’ because I’ve been told the BBC are the major funder behind the S4C channel who negotiated Welsh matches on their free to air channel and their funding is ‘political’.
And there has also been little ‘political’ discussion why ITV will soon invest in the English matches but not Scottish.We need our ‘politicians’ to be aware of stuff like this and to stop it happening again.
We know full well this is a long road and needs more than just a phone call to the 6th floor.
So we got together with MP Gavin Newlands someone else who knows the facts and cared and was also willing to put his head above the parapet and do something about it.
We shared a couple of media platforms and had some further wide ranging discussions.
Gavin then called a full meeting with all stakeholders including the SFA, Terrestrial channels and Viaplay.
It got cross party support and Gillian Mackay of the Greens, the well known Brora fan, got directly involved too.
That meeting raised and discussed the issues under ‘Chatham House’ rules.
Without breaking any confidences the meeting was good but it didn’t take the likes of Laura Kuenssberg to see that the sides were polarised because the SFA get revenue from Uefa, and Viaplay had bid for and won a bona fide Uefa media auction and had a contract.
An unoffered fact was that nobody had ever forced or coerced the SFA into the ‘bundling’ situation and the highest bidder auction.
It was and is about revenue.
And it is not set in stone for ever.
Something else we also now know is the Viaplay parent company have since struggled big time to make their package work financially and that might even mean the Scotland deal is up for resale, or maybe even threatened.
OK it does mean both.
So back to Gavin’s very first meeting.
The outcome was status quo and people protecting their own picnics.
Fans were only ever in the equation as subscribers.
It was very polite apart from me challenging on the value of money if you are poor.
I’d just been told I was in remission from AML so didn’t give a shit about offending the Irish.
But everything else was short-term and indeed self-interest dominated.
No surprises and no real facts.
After that session we kept closely in touch with Gavin and subsequently agreed that a follow-on sub meeting of fans, fan groups and politicians would be a better way forward.
Discussion showed we all believed passionately that Scottish fans should be able to watch our team for free like in England and Wales, and did not want our Women’s game to be treated like the men’s game when their current deals ran out
There was also support for genuine fan research to gauge the broader views
That research has now happened and was and is illuminating.
The first thing research told us that what has been ‘Normalised in Scotland i.e. paying to watch Scotland on TV is not Normal in Europe.
(Only 7 countries out of 55 Fifa nations have to pay to see their team and that includes us and Northern Ireland).
To say that again, ‘Pay Per View’ For International Matches Has Been Normalised For 20 Years But is Not Normal
Just think about that for a microsecond.
The next big result is a whopping 99% of fans think Scottish matches should be free to air.
And when you drill further down into fan behaviour vis a vis our national side, what shook us were the simple facts that the Uefa/SFA pay wall policy doesn’t just reduce adult viewers and therefore damage their commercial selling values and potential downstream, it also restricts the size of their future business because kids are being excluded, and excluded kids drop off.
A Self-Induced Negative Double Whammy.
The SFA might be considerably better off taking less revenue from a terrestrial channel, engaging positively with all fans, especially kids, growing our game and making the future commercial pot significantly bigger and better for everyone.
I still have things that don’t quite add up in my head.
Why do C4 and then ITV choose not to work with us?
Are there issues with how we run our commercial interactions?
Anyway I am optimistic and see this all as the start of a long and slow ‘Low-Road’ to getting all Scottish national matches on free to air tv for the benefit of all.
We’d all prefer the ‘High and Fast Road’ and the quick phone call but that isn’t how it works.
I know it will be a slog because short termism is endemic but the fans will win because we are in the right, and we are the foundation stakeholders.
It won’t go away and eventually the politicians will win for us.
National Football team matches are ‘Crown Jewels’ like Wimbledon and The Grand National.
In the meantime my heartfelt thanks to all who have contributed so far to help us on the journey, and to Tolkien for the verse.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began
Now far ahead the Road has gone
And I must follow if I can
Pursuing it with eager feet
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet
So before Sting, if you haven’t ‘Signed on For Scotland then please do’
This Week’s Sting
1. Please Sign On for Scotland
Fans call for all fans to rise up, sign on and consign the SFA’s International Paywall to the bin
Research Summary Supports Change:-
The research will be posted in full on our web site and clearly shows how negative fans think the TV deal is for our game, present and future.
So what did Gavin Newlands, Rose Reilly, Henry McLeish, and Andy Smith have to say this morning on the press release?
Gavin Newlands, MP, said: “Scotland is out of kilter with what is happening with National Team matches, not just across Europe but also next door. That will surprise many people and it is unfair. The SFSA survey shows huge appetite for change.
We ask all fans to combine on this one and work with us. Please fill in our Petition https://scotlandgamesfreeontv.org/
Together we can win, and win for the better, for all”.
Rose Reilly, ex sine-die ban, and trailblazer for women’s football and football in Scotland, said: “Everyone, women, men, girls, and boys wants to see Scotland games free on TV, as is the case in England, Wales, and all over Europe.
We’d like every child, boy or girl, who has a dream of one day pulling on our famous blue shirt to be able to watch their heroes every time they step onto the pitch, without any financial barriers. History tells us that football makes many mistakes. Well we can also judge those who run our game by how they address the mistakes they make, mistakes like this.
If you agree that Scotland matches should be free on TV go on line and sign ” https://scotlandgamesfreeontv.org/
SFSA Chairman Andy Smith said: “I understand that the SFA have a constant requirement for revenues to be able to continue undertaking the good works they do, but restricting our games behind the Pay-Per-View barrier is curtailing the size of our game now and therefore reducing the game’s future commercial potential.
Scotland is in a minority, disenfranchised football fan grouping in Europe and we’re hurting families and kids who are facing enough financial pressure. Fans overwhelmingly don’t like what the SFA have sanctioned through Uefa because the result is the costs that see many of our kids excluded.
That is plain wrong.
My biggest fear is instead building on the good work of Steve Clarke and his team, and looking forward with confidence we are managing a self-induced long-term decline.
Every fan should sign this petition to get this fully discussed and then the policy swept into the deepest bin we can find”
And the final word to Henry McLeish, former First Minister, and Tartan Army veteran:
“Scotland is OUR team, and it belongs to the nation.”
Visit the website here https://scotlandgamesfreeontv.org/
Direct link to Change petition: https://chng.it/jtnXXXsvV6
That’s it for this week
If you haven’t already, Sign On For Scotland
Andy’s Album s of the Week
This week it’s in step with today’s Sting and is Craig and Charlie with Hit the Highway.
The kind of album you haven’t played for ages then slip right back into it.
One of the good things about the dinosaur habit of buying CDS is holding them in your hands. They will never be real possessions like vinyl was but they are the next best thing.
And digging back into old albums brings all the memories back.